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Thread: Allergic Reactions

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Allergic Reactions

    This past week has been hellish for me. I have suffered from my allergies every day, and I think the culprit is in my house. (Oh, sure, part of is is due to farmers plowing and fertilizing the fields, and part is pollen, but it is worse in the house.) I have undertaken an assault on the mold, mildew and dust mites that make me suffer. This morning I took CLR to the shower, sink and toilet in the master bath. I even scraped off the old caulk and replaced it with a better silicone caulk. I washed the floor and cleaned every surface. Then I moved on to the bedroom, vacuuming, changing the bedding, and dusting every surface (even taking apart the wall sconces to clean inside). I already have the mattress and pillows in cases. I bought an air purifier to run in the bedroom. I even contacted a maid service to get a price on a regular cleaning.

    So, fellow, allergy sufferers, what more can I do? Or when allergies do flare up, what helps to reduce the impact?
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian biscuit's avatar
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    My dad has a similar situation in that he has developed severe allergic reactions to molds, pollen, grass, household chemicals... well, just about everything. To alleviate his suffering on the advise of his doctor they have taken up all of the carpeting (one of the worse offenders) and floor covering in the house and have replaced it with hardwood. Another step that has seemed to help was having a dehumidifier put onto the central air unit.

    Just remember to keep everything dusted and remember to take your Zyrtec.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Some of the extremes I go to are on my website:
    http://califmichele.com/vacuum.html
    http://califmichele.com/saline.html

    Additionally: if you have a cloth shower curtain, either wash it or trash it and replace it with vinyl. It can be full of mold and mildew spores without appearing to have anything wrong with it. I stumbled across this fact when I was dealing with the big mildew crisis here.

    I have gone so far as to throw out (or donate to charity) upholstered furniture that had gotten contaminated by pollen. Now that I have an actual bed and actual pillows again, I am having more trouble than when I was sleeping on the floor. I am having fantasies of replacing all pillows etc with leather ones.

    I try to wash all blankets, rugs, curtains, and pillows in the house at least 2 or 3 times per year. Since living in this apartment, washing pillows has been impractical. So I vacuum pack them on a regular basis. This has to be done more frequently than washing because it isn't as effective. If you choose to wash pillows, realize that some of them will not survive the process, some of them will never be "the same" (in terms of fluffiness, etc) and you may not like them anymore, and it takes like 6 hours to dry them in a dryer. And if you do not dry them completely and thoroughly, you will just make your problems worse. This is a desperate measure and you have to commit to it totally or not at all.

    You should move every single piece of furniture in the house and clean behind, under etc. This is especially true of large pieces that do not get moved for long periods. If you have been wondering about a new furniture arrangement, this is an excellent time to plan and implement it.

    My sister swears by cleaning out the vents in the house.

    If you are not already doing so, I recommend buying a hepa filter for the air conditioner. I also only buy vacuum cleaners with built-in hepa filters.

    I don't know. I would need to know more about your home to give more recommendations. Any chance you will post pics? (Or send them privately, if you don't want it on the web.) That might help me "see" some of the issues you have.

    HTH,
    Michele -- the woman with the really expensive breathing habit

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Well, MZ, it looks like I can take a few ideas from your postings:

    1. steam clean the carpet;
    2. the down pillows go to the guest room (DO NOT tell me I have to get rid of my Pendleton wool blankets!);
    3. buckwheat pillows (?);
    4. vacuum the remaining pillows; and
    5. put salt water up my nose.

    I have heard that cleaning ducts is a waste of time and/or money. I do wonder if it would be possible to fit a HEPA filter in the register, though. This would help to remove pollen and spores blown in by the furnace, fan or AC. Does anyone know if such a thing exists, or if filter material can be ourchased somewhere?

    I will post a few house pics (but not until I have finished cleaning).


    Biscuit - I picked up a small dehumidifier for the master bath, and I run a large one downtsairs in summer. I am not a fan of humidity, even if I did not have allergies. I would love to have a whole-house dehumidifier (more effective, not having to empty it daily) but don't expect to be here long enough to make it worthwhile.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I do wonder if it would be possible to fit a HEPA filter in the register, though. This would help to remove pollen and spores blown in by the furnace, fan or AC. Does anyone know if such a thing exists, or if filter material can be ourchased somewhere?
    Yes, they sell HEPA filters of the usual dimensions, etc, to fit standard air conditioning systems. But they cost like $12 or $15 instead of like $2. I think they are totally worth it. I am trying to think of a brand name. I am drawing a blank. If I think of one, I will let you know. But if you go to anyplace that sells filters, they should be there with "normal" filters. I am thinking the brand name ends in "crete" and the packaging is usually red.

    EDIT: the name is FILTRETE. You may have seen their commercials. I think it is by 3M corp.
    You can sleep with the down pillows IF you wash them every single week. (The fluffiness of down pillows is not effected by washing in the way that poly-fill is. They wash pretty well. I had a down comforter in Kansas, where it was worth it to wash it every week because Kansas was so cold. ) I have never had a problem with wool.

    And don't just "vacuum" the other pillows. You need to vacuum pack them.... I hope you got that point and mean that same thing. If not, I can explain further. (Time for me to review my website so I know exactly what I said -- I need to update that page anyway. Volcanic rock and cedar blocks are other tips that help with air quality. And I know the volcanic rock stuff is not on that page. I had to look it up for my homeschooling with chronic illness group recently. )
    Last edited by Michele Zone; 24 Apr 2004 at 10:21 PM.

  6. #6
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    My sons and I are fortunate that we don't suffer from any allergies. Survival of the fittest I guess?
    I think that one of the great signs of security is the ability to just walk away.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian Plus Zoning Goddess's avatar
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    I guess I am lucky that I am only allergic (altho' that is a misnomer; allergies must be only to living/formerly living things, I am told) to one of about a gazillion substances in my former workplace. Never could pinpoint it.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake
    My sons and I are fortunate that we don't suffer from any allergies. Survival of the fittest I guess?
    Most of my issues were not formally diagnosed until I nearly died. Just because you do not get hives or start into anaphylactic shock does not mean you do not have any such issues.

    I survived my childhood with all my undiagnosed and untreated issues by: eating lots and lots of oranges (vitamin C is a natural antihistamine) -- I rarely eat oranges outside of Georgia but resume the practice when I visit family; going to the pool a lot where I was chlorinated and sunburned until my nose and cheeks freckled and peeled every single summer (the chlorine and radiation from the sun helped kill infection); and downing lots of caffiene, which has a similar stimulant effect to the drugs they prescribe for asthma. I still consume huge amounts of caffeine in order to stay off of drugs like Albuterol.

    I survived being deathly ill and denied treatment by drinking alcohol, taking hot baths, taking herbal supplements, and on and on. I have never been very fond of fish but I used to eat it once in a while. After I was injected with dye twice (probably iodine) for making contrasting dye CAT scans, I became so highly allergic to shellfish that when I ate a single piece of shrimp from my husband's plate at a restaurant, I spent a week in bed feeling like I had been beaten with a baseball bat. For months after that, the smell of fish made me feel like vomitting. Allergies can intensify or lessen, depending upon various environmental factors. Prior to that, I had no reason to believe I was "allergic" to shellfish. I just wasn't fond of it.

    If I recall right, you drink a lot of caffeine and a lot of alcohol. Alcohol kills germs, among other things. In spite of the fact that is chemically classified as a poison, humans retain a taste for it because of its many medicinal properties. (Of course, many medicines are poisonous if you take too much or if you take them when you do not need them.) I have to wonder if you are actually "self medicating" for undiagnosed issues.

    Pure conjecture of course. And no way to prove it. Just an idle thought.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I always wondered about the caffiene. It does seem to help, but I wondered if I was just imagining it.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I always wondered about the caffiene. It does seem to help, but I wondered if I was just imagining it.
    Caffeine is remarkably similar to some of the stimulants used to treat asthma. Last year, I routinely carried a very dark chocolate or coffee-laced chocolate bar in my purse in place of albuterol. I was still routinely having asthma-like attacks and a strong dose of caffeine was sufficient to treat the mild ones and the side effects of too much caffeine is something I far prefer to the side effects of the 3 or 4 unused (or barely used) inhalers that I own.

    When my sister visited me with her daughter when the girl was about a year old, she learned that her child had inherited daddy's asthma because the girl had her first asthma attack. My sister did not even realize the girl was so crabby and unable to sleep due to an asthma attack. I did because my oldest was treated for asthma as an infant (a common misdiagnosis for the genetic disorder that he and I have). It was her last night and she was leaving the next day. I told her "You have two choices: You can spend your last night here at the ER or you can let me feed her coke." I used an ordinary straw as an "eyedropper" (you put your finger over the end of the straw to trap the liquid, then lift it to release it into the baby's mouth -- a technique I had to learn with my oldest child, who was so sick as a baby). After an hour, the girl could breath but was hyper and climbing all over mom. It was already past midnight. One of the highlights of my parenting life then occurred: my sister turned to me after about an hour of being climbed on by her frantic daughter and drily said "Your first was like this all the time as an infant and you didn't shoot yourself??" I fell off the couch from laughing so hard. Yes, enough caffeine is extremely similar to the effects of albuterol and similar.

    As an aside: down pillows do not take 6 hours to dry either, the way poly-fill do. I had 3 down comforters in Kansas that I washed every week. I do not remember how long it took to dry them but I washed them every week and my kids were still young enough that it was against their religion to let me sleep, eat a meal that wasn't already cold, go to the bathroom by myself, or feel like something resembling a Human Being. So I assure you: I did not have 18 hours per week to babysit 3 stupid blankets being dried.

  11. #11
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    So, fellow, allergy sufferers, what more can I do? Or when allergies do flare up, what helps to reduce the impact?
    Cardinal - my 0.02 says that is a whole lotta cleaning you're doing, buddy. Do you think that by making your house a germ and allergen-free zone (or as close to one as possible), that maybe when you are exposed to allergens, your system is more likely to freak out?

    If pollen is a trigger, have you tried having a little bit of locally-produced honey each day? This was suggested to me as a way to reduce hayfever symptoms. Local honey will be made with local pollen, and by introducing a bit to your system, it creates some tolerance.

  12. #12
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Make the enemy your friend....?

    This article may be of interest... and it includes the following:

    Increasingly city people are turning to locally-made honey as a remedy to tackle the misery of hay fever.

    Many sufferers, struck with stinging eyes and blocked or runny noses during the summer, find their symptoms are reduced when they take regular doses of the golden runny stuff.

    Doctors and chemists still cannot fully explain how honey helps it is thought regular doses of local honey allows the body to build up an immunity to the pollen which causes their symptoms.
    http://www.peterboroughtoday.co.uk/m...x?pageID=39805

  13. #13
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNL
    Cardinal - my 0.02 says that is a whole lotta cleaning you're doing, buddy. Do you think that by making your house a germ and allergen-free zone (or as close to one as possible), that maybe when you are exposed to allergens, your system is more likely to freak out?

    If pollen is a trigger, have you tried having a little bit of locally-produced honey each day? This was suggested to me as a way to reduce hayfever symptoms. Local honey will be made with local pollen, and by introducing a bit to your system, it creates some tolerance.
    While I agree completely with your suggestion that local honey might help (and I know people who swear by various bee products), I want to note that I have seen no scientific evidence that genuinely supports this idea that an environment which is "too clean" CAUSES people to be more sensitive to allergens. I consider it to be something akin to "an urban legend".

    I have seen no studies of this issue which make any attempt to account for the fact that infant mortality rates have plummeted (or other factors that I would consider relevant). It does not take a whole lot of scientific investigation to note that the weak die first. Until a hundred years or so ago, half of all babies never made it to their fifth birthday. The one article I recall reading which proposed this hypothesis that "too much cleaning" causes allergic reactions in part cited the general lack of allergies of populations of untouchables who collect the garbage in places like Egypt. Their kids grow up literally at the city dump. I saw no mention of the infant mortality rate of this group or their lifespan in comparison to others or any other means to rule out the possibility that low rates of allergies in such populations are due to allergic babies dying off young or any other means to rule out confounding factors.

    Had I lived prior to the existence of antibiotics, I would most likely have been one of those kids who did not make it to their fifth birthday. My genetic disorder is a MILD variation of a more well-known BLATANT problem. It takes only a small leap of logic to surmise that the babies who are surviving but would have died in centuries past may "all" have mild but unknown genetic issues. Further support of such an idea comes from research which suggests that up to half of all fetuses are miscarried in the first two weeks, before the woman has any idea she is pregnant. It is thought that such miscarriages represent babies who are so genetically defective as to not be viable and not worth investing scarce biological resources in.

    My disorder was not discovered by genetic research until I was about 32 years old. I do not believe that all of the genes for this variation have been mapped. (I have had 2 genetic tests which turned up nothing. A third, more comprehensive test costing $5000 at Stanford was denied by my insurance. They had already spent at least $25,000 on keeping me alive and giving me more than 2 dozen tests that year. I think they couldn't cope with swallowing any more costs for me.) CF is the most common genetic disorder among those of white European descent. Although it is a homozygous recessive disorder, the latest research indicates that people who are carriers (and have only one copy of the gene, not two) do exhibit mild symptoms of the disorder I have such as allergies and sinus problems and a preference for a high salt, high protein diet. This is consistent with my observations of the two carriers I live with. (Because I have a homozygous recessive disorder and so does my oldest son, we know for a fact that my husband and other child are carriers without doing any further testing. My youngest was ruled out as having the disorder by testing but I am incapable of producing a child who does not carry a copy of the gene. Since my oldest son also has it, his dad HAS TO BE a carrier as well.)

    It has not been lost on me that the people in this forum who complain the most of 'allergies' and similar are typically of white European descent. In fact, at least two of them are, like me, of mostly Germanic heritage. It is entirely possible that Cardinal and others with allergy problems are carriers of the genetic disorder I have and do have mild symptoms of it, such as allergies. If so, no, too much cleaning cannot be "the problem".

    I don't want you to feel beat up, JNL. This is something of a pet peeve of mine. I have heard such things said in other forums and I think it is unfounded.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian JNL's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone

    I don't want you to feel beat up, JNL. This is something of a pet peeve of mine. I have heard such things said in other forums and I think it is unfounded.
    Doesn't worry me. I'm not an expert in this area and I expected to see a long response from you. I realise the honey idea was only addressing part of the issue.

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNL
    Doesn't worry me. I'm not an expert in this area and I expected to see a long response from you. I realise the honey idea was only addressing part of the issue.
    The honey may be extremely helpful. But the idea that "too much cleaning may cause allergies" seems to me to be very poor science. In contrast to the magazine articles that suggest such things, there is an excellent book called "More work for mother" which is a 300 year history of technological innovation in housework. To summarize the entire book in brief: In spite of enormous innovations in technology to aid in our ability to keep our homes clean, women still perform roughly the same number of hours of housework that they have in centuries past. It has not "saved" us any work. What it has done is dramatically improved our standard of living. And there is good reason to believe that cleaner homes are one of the direct causes of lower infant mortality rates.

    Thanks for not taking it personally.

  16. #16
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone

    If I recall right, you drink a lot of caffeine and a lot of alcohol. Alcohol kills germs, among other things.
    Yes, I do drink lots of coffee and alcohol (I'm a planner and a Cyburbian). But explain to me the connection between germs and allergies. Have I missed something?
    I think that one of the great signs of security is the ability to just walk away.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake
    Yes, I do drink lots of coffee and alcohol (I'm a planner and a Cyburbian). But explain to me the connection between germs and allergies. Have I missed something?
    Hmmm. I really did not intend to suggest that. I was mostly noting that caffeine and alcohol both have medicinal properties and you have spoken of using both of them fairly heavily. And I do not know too much more about your habits, so I commented on two that I do know of, just as an example of things people can do to self-medicate without realizing that is what they are doing. However, allergies are commonly associated with certain kinds of medical problems, like asthma and other respiratory problems. And if you are mildly allergic something, exposure can weaken your defenses and make you more vulnerable to other things. It amounts to "fighting a two front war". So, I can well imagine that exposure to an allergen might make you more vulnerable to whatever germs are going around, and that could be where the alcohol comes in. Also, allergies can make it really hard to sleep well and I suppose that alcohol might be a means to treat that symptom. I do not usually drink. But I have an unusual physiology. So I don't tolerate alcohol well. That leaves at a bit of a disadvantage in thinking about this.

    I could just as easily speculate that the smokers of the forum may be self-medicating for depression. That is some of the latest research: that smoking elevates certain chemicals in the brain and can be a means to self-medicate for depression. It was stumbled across purely by accident that certain of the newer anti-depressant drugs directly cause a lot of smokers to stop smoking.

    In essence, I think most folks "self-medicate" to some degree without having any idea that they are doing so. We do what works, what helps, what makes us feel better and function better. I had no idea as a kid that oranges and sunburns and chlorine, etc, were so crucial to keeping me functioning. But, as an adult, I have consciously used such things to help me stay well. My mom is not as pale as I am and is very much a "sun worshipper" who pulled weeds in her string bikini until she had a mastectomy at age 50. (Then she had to give up her string bikinis and wear little old lady bathing suits.) She also has terrible sinus problems. My sister and I wonder if the sinus problems are the real reason she so loves the sunshine. Sunshine kills mold, mildew, dust mites, and some other stuff.

    Anyway, sorry if I am just confusing the issue. My only point is that just because you do not have a diagnosis or hives or obvious symptoms of allergies does not entirely rule out some kind of mild and undetected allergy. My allergy to shellfish was a complete a surprise. But it probably runs in the family. My mom almost never made fish because my dad does not like it. I never much liked it. I never had hives or anything like that from it until after I had the contrast dye CAT scans. So, the natural aversion to something that is a problem for me and other family members made this an invisible issue -- until something really dramatic happened to make it quite apparent.

    Does that help clarify?

  18. #18
    Cyburbian Duke Of Dystopia's avatar
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    Check out your house for damp areas that tend to stay damp. If your house is newer rather than an old home it may not have good air flow. Also may be a problem with refurbished old homes with poor air flow.

    A few years back they were running stories on toxic molds and such. They can make even healthy non-allergenic people sick.
    I can't deliver UTOPIA, but I can create a HELL for you to LIVE in :)DoD:(

  19. #19
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    Wouldn't the cleaning supplies used also make a difference? We pretty much gave up using the usual heavy chemicals a couple of years ago because we have a ditzy dog who licks everything, and we didn't want her licking up all kinds of carcinogens etc. Switched to the natural stuff, like vinegar and the more expensive health-food store stuff, and not only is the dog fine, the house is very clean, doesn't smell like a Superfund site, and it's easier for us to breathe after a marathon cleaning session. To the best of my knowledge, neither of us has allergies beyond pollen, and even that is thankfully minor, but we'd noticed that after a thorough cleaning with the old supermarket supplies, the air in the house felt oppressive and it was somewhat hard to breathe, and very sneeze-inducing.
    Just my 0.02 worth.
    And by the way, a down comforter takes about 1 1/2 hours in a dryer at full blast. Just did mine last week. :-}
    I don't dream. I plan.

  20. #20
    Cyburbian SlaveToTheGrind's avatar
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    I suffer from allergies 24/7/365 with spring being the worst. Usual symptom is stuffiness. I seriously have not had a good nights sleep in 8+ years. My wife usually kicks me out of bed because the snoring.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    RJ, after thinking about it some more, I think what I should have said is this:

    My real intent including alcohol in my original comments was about the "among other things" part of the description. "Killing germs" is just the most well-known property of alcohol. I put the two of them together in my original comments with this basic idea: It is my general understanding that you drink a lot of coffee to start your day and cannot function without it and have been doing this for years. Then, often, you drink alcohol in the evening to try to sleep. A pattern of needing an upper in the morning to be able to function and a downer at night to be able to sleep is a common pattern among allergy sufferers.

    What is nagging at the back of my mind is your indication that you simply cannot function without a strong dose of coffee when you first get up. When you have something innate and subtle, it can be nearly impossible to sort out what is "normal" and what is not. I knew that something was not normal about me and tried to say that to doctors for years but got blown off. But it is only now that I have a diagnosis and have read some literature on CF that I understand how my body is different. A lot of stuff suddenly makes sense that didn't before. And I think it is not "normal" for a healthy person to NEED a strong shot of caffeine in the morning to be able to function. It is normal for a lot of allergy sufferers. Allergy may not be the explanation. As I said: it is basically conjecture on my part. But the way your speak of your caffeine habit strikes me as noteworthy, even for this crowd.

  22. #22
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNL
    Cardinal - my 0.02 says that is a whole lotta cleaning you're doing, buddy. Do you think that by making your house a germ and allergen-free zone (or as close to one as possible), that maybe when you are exposed to allergens, your system is more likely to freak out?

    If pollen is a trigger, have you tried having a little bit of locally-produced honey each day? This was suggested to me as a way to reduce hayfever symptoms. Local honey will be made with local pollen, and by introducing a bit to your system, it creates some tolerance.
    As much as I clean the place, I could never eliminate all of the mold spores and dust mites. The house is over 120 years old and has too many nooks and crannies, not to mention what might be lurking in the walls. I think what happened is that with an excessive amount of travel lately, I have not been keeping up on the cleaning. Then we had some damp weather, and the mold counts must have skyrocketed.

    After finishing with the upstairs, I moved to the first floor and gave that a good cleaning too. A local service will come in and clean for $55 a visit. It is well worth it to have have them come in twice a month to get a clean place, suffer less from my allergies, and buy myself more free time.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  23. #23
    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal
    I have heard that cleaning ducts is a waste of time and/or money.
    In my experience, I have found that cleaning the air ducts once every 3-5 years works wonders for me. I'd suggest that you should try this at least once.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Doitnow!!'s avatar
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    It has not "saved" us any work. What it has done is dramatically improved our standard of living
    Agreed that the total work hours for women may have remained similar but its technological innovation that has made the big difference in the standard of living.
    I've seen that there have been detailed posts on the issue and what i can say broadly is that while its very important to clean up the house( I am also a kindof cleanliness freak) there should be an effort toimprove the immunity.
    If drinking lemonade with a little honey every morning and any other home based solutions with some exercise can be done , I am sure there can be a difference.

    There are some simple yogic exercises too which can help.
    Though I am no expert in them mind you.
    :-P
    Last edited by Doitnow!!; 27 Apr 2004 at 10:59 AM.
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  25. #25

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    One thing that I have read is that many immunoresponse disorders may be partly attributable to antibiotics, in the sense that an immune system that has not been forced to work through "normal" childhood illnesses may be hyper-sensitive to things like allergens.

    Of course, said childhood diseases KILLED a lot of children....Nonetheless, this proves that there is always a "negative" to every progress.

    I honestly feel that my allergies may be less severe than they used to be. Does anyone else have experience with lessening severity over time? On the other hand, it seems that asthma is always just under the surface-just not as severe or with the other symptoms that I used to get (I used to get bronchitis and horrible, two weeks of coughing every spring)

    Maybe because I am not longer forcing the level of exposure quite as much during the spring (i.e., I've not been forcing the bicycle riding this early in the season). But still, I rode 60 miles through the heart of the Sacramento Valley allergy belt (with a damn north wind that is always deadly to me) and I feel relatively ok. I do notice that when I was laying on grass in a park yesterday that I could feel my allergies kick in a bit (a stupid thing to do).

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